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Michael Norton (doc) is Director of Engineering for Groupon in Chicago, IL. Michael's experience covers a wide range of development topics. Michael declares expertise in no single language or methodology and is immediately suspicious of anyone who declares such expertise. Michael is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 41 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

The Problem with "Don't Bring Me Problems"

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Want to really set yourself apart as a leader? Try telling your employees, "Don't bring me problems, bring me solutions." This phrase will absolutely set you apart as a leader; apart from your people, apart from communication, apart from real issues, and apart from collaborative solutions.

Don't bring me problems. Bring me solutions.

I can imagine only one reason a leader would say something like this - there are too many people bringing them problems.

But why would this be?
I doubt that the company is wrought with people incapable of handling issues incumbent with their roles. I am skeptical that the organization is in such an anomalous position that few can fathom a resolve. I suspect the institution has a reasonable share of intelligent and competent individuals who've likely served in similar, if not more challenging roles at prior times in their career.

So why then, would they bring the boss so many problems? Why would said boss be compelled to mandate, "None shall deliver unto me problems without providing proper suggestion for resolution thereof"?

Such a boss might consider looking to themselves as the source of their very angst.

Who receives too many problems?
What other than a boss who takes power rather than shares it, would render competent, experienced, and intelligent people inept?

It is the boss who bellows, "Do you want me to come down there and do it for you?"
It is the boss who assigns multiple people the same task and later selects a winner.
It is the boss who requests fresh ideas but then proceeds with their own idea.
It is the boss who asks a team to make a decision and then overrules it.

You really want less problems?

The leader who entrusts hears little of problems or, for that matter, solutions. To this leader, results are delivered. And should this leader be delivered a problem, they know it is a serious thing indeed. Serious enough to put their best people on it and get out of the way.
Published at DZone with permission of Michael Norton, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


Lund Wolfe replied on Sun, 2013/02/17 - 8:36pm

I had a boss who only wanted to hear happy thoughts, not issues or risks.  The company had a single hierarchy moving from technical to management and his technical skills were way out-of-date.  He was actually the best boss I ever had by far.  He considered his role to be supporting and defending his team as much as he was able from the company side.

Barely a mid-level Java developer when I started, I became even more self-reliant than I was already.  Maybe he just felt overwhelmed by anything technical.  Failure was not an option, and don't even think about the possibility of failure.  It was also a small team.  If you didn't know, then nobody knew.

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